New York

A Family Affair

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Ralph and Elizabeth Schoenherr, 1953. New York. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2020.023.3.

Sometimes the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library receives donations that help to tell the story of an entire family’s history, complete with personal remembrances. Such is the case with the Schoenherr family of Schenectedy, New York, who had a long standing connection to Freemasonry. Since 2007, Florence E. Connor, daughter of Armin W. Schoenherr (1909-1949), has donated items related to these Masonic family connections. Armin L. Schoenherr (1880-1926), born in Germany, immigrated to New York at a young age and joined Corlaer Lodge No. 932 in Schenectady in the 1920s. His wife Emmy L. Canzan Schoenherr (1875-1954) was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star George Hope Chapter No. 271 and involved in the Order of Amaranth. They passed on their Masonic interests  to their three children, Armin W. (1909-1949), Ralph H. (1912-2002), and Florence Schoenherr Grubey (c. 1918-2004).

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Florence Margaret Schoenherr Grubey, 1994. Mary Lou Bentley, Louisville, Kentucky. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2007.012.23.

Armin W., a Mason and Shriner, owned a local jewelry store that sold and repaired not only traditional jewels but fraternal pins and other material designed to appeal to Masonic consumers. His younger brother Ralph (pictured above with his wife Elizabeth) was a Mason for over fifty years and involved with the Royal Arch, Knights Templar, Shriners, and Jesters. He served as Potentate of Albany's Cyprus Shrine in 1959 and ran the Shrine circus for several years. Their sister Florence was a member of the Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America and is pictured at right with a fellow member in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1994.

Aside from donating a number of objects related to her father and brother's jewelry store, Florence most recently donated charm bracelets, one is pictured below, that belonged to Elizabeth Schoenherr, Ralph's wife, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Florence shared some information about the family’s history and related this memory of her father, who passed away suddenly at the age of 43 in 1949, the same year he became a Shriner. She remembered the day he joined the Shrine as “one of his proudest days,” adding, “I remember the Shriners at the wake putting an apron in his coffin and having a service. It meant a lot to my mother (41 with 3 children, 8, 10 and 12). My mother continued the business...My brother (Armin, Jr.) later took over the store.” Armin Walter Schoenherr, Jr. (c.1941-1987) was also a member of Corlaer Lodge No. 92 in Schenectady. 

Do you have a Masonic family tradition to share? We want to know about it! Leave a comment below or email Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator, at ylaxton[@]srmml.org. 

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Bracelet worn by Elizabeth Schoenherr. United States. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2020.023.1.
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Armin Schoenherr, Jr. (back row, third from left) with other officers from Corlaer No. 932, 1967. "Corlaer Trestle Board "(Schenectady, NY), February, 1967.

New to the Collection: Watercolor Mark Degree Record Made for Joseph Fish

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Watercolor Mark Degree Record Made for Joseph Fish, 1818. William Murray (1756-1828), probably Montgomery County, New York. Museum Purchase, 2018.019.  Photograph by David Bohl.

In 1818 painter William Murray (1756-1828) created this watercolor for Joseph Fish, Sr., likely as a commemoration of Fish receiving the Mark Degree. A veteran of the Revolutionary War and a schoolteacher, Murray also painted colorful and charming family records and other works for friends and family in New York State. When he painted this work, Murray lived in Montgomery County, New York.  In the 1980s, collectors and researchers Arthur and Sybil Kern identified fourteen paintings signed by Murray over the course of his career. The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently purchased this one, formerly part of the Kern collection. It joins a family record signed by Murray that has been in the Museum’s collection for many years.

The Mark Degree commemoration that Murray painted for Joseph Fish shares decorative and stylistic elements with other works done by the artist.  Among these elements are borders of simple round flowers and of heart-shaped tulip-like flowers, different colored wavy lines, a field divided by lines and circular elements. In creating this work for Joseph Fish, Murray employed a palette of light brown, blue, red and yellow. He also, as befit the purpose of the work, included many Masonic symbols. At the top center of the drawing, Murray added an all-seeing eye. In the upper portion of the composition, at each corner, he drew a ladder, an ark, an urn and an anchor—all symbols used in Freemasonry.  Within the circle at the center, Murray included several Masonic symbols, such as an arch with a keystone, a letter G, stars, a plumb, a mallet, the moon and a coffin with a scythe on top of it. Beneath the large circle at the center, between “Joseph” and “Fish,” Murray drew a circle that surrouned Fish’s own mark—a symbol that Fish selected to represent himself—within a border of the letters HTWSSTKS. This group of letters are a mnemonic associated with the Mark Degree.  As his emblem, Fish chose a level. In Freemasonry this symbol represents equality and the lodge office of Senior Warden. Two other symbols in the watercolor related to lodge offices.  Crossed keys indicate the lodge treasurer.  A square and compasses with the sun at the center is an emblem found on many jewels given to lodge members who have served the lodge as Master.

In spite of these clues, little is known of Joseph Fish. The Kerns identified him as “a member of a Masonic lodge in Hoosick, NY.”  The owner of this painting may have been the Joseph Fish noted, in 1795, as the Junior Deacon of Patriot Lodge No. 39 of Pittstown, New York, a town neighboring Hoosick.  Masons established this lodge in 1794.  Short-lived, the lodge closed by 1818. Though its establishment is not noted in the Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of New York, a mark lodge associated with Patriot Lodge No. 39--Patriot Mark Lodge--had two members representing it at a meeting of the Grand Chapter in 1806. Both Federal Mark Lodge No. 37 in Hoosick and Patriot Mark Lodge in Pittstown were recorded as delinquent for at least two years’ worth of dues in 1815, suggesting that neither lodge thrived.  However, they may have been working long enough for Joseph Fish to have received the Mark Degree at one of them before 1818. Hopefully, further research will uncover more about Joseph Fish and about his connection to the artist William Murray. In the meantime, Murray's painting offers colorful evidence of Fish's participation in Freemasonry.

 

References:

George Baker Anderson, Landmarks of Rensselaer County, New York, (Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Company, 1897) 194.

Arthur B. and Sybil B. Kern, “Painters of Record:  William Murray and His School,” The Clarion: America’s Folk Art Magazine (New York, NY: The Museum of American Folk Art, Winter, 1987) 28-35.

Arthur B. and Sybil B. Kern, “William Murray: Early New York State Painter,” and “New York State Painters of Family Records: The School of William Murray,” typescripts, 1985. Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, MA.

Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of New York, Vol. 1, 1798-1858, (Buffalo, NY: the Grand Chapter, 1871) 54, 63, 124.

A. J. Weise, History of the Seventeen Towns of Rensselaer County, (Troy, NY: J. M. Francis & Tucker, 1880), 87.


Illustrating Arctic Exploration

In 1853, physician Elisha Kent Kane (1820-1857) led the Second Grinnell Expedition from London, England, to Rensselaer Harbor, Greenland. Kane, an experienced Arctic explorer and member of the First Grinnell Expedition in 1850, charted the coasts of Smith Sound and the Kane Basin in Greenland. American merchant Henry Grinnell (1799-1874) financed both tours, launched as search expeditions for the 1845 lost Franklin Polar Expedition.

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Farewell, ca. 1889. Albert Operti (1852-1927), New York,
New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 91.014.

After an arduous year at sea, Kane's vessel, the Advance became icebound. After two treacherous winters, Dr. Kane and his crew were forced to abandon the Advance. They navigated through the bay in their small whaling boats.  Before abandoning ship, Kane and his crew removed the figure-head from their ship as a remembrance of their journey. Kane described the experience in the 1856 book Arctic Explorations, Vol.II, writing:...“Our Figure-head, ‘The Fair Augusta,’ the little blue girl with pink cheeks, who had lost her breast by an iceberg, and her nose by a nip off ‘Bedevilled Reach,’ was taken from our bows and place aboard the ‘Hope.” “She is at any rate wood,’ said the men, when I hesitated about giving them the additional burden, ‘and if we cannot carry her far we can burn her.’”

Artist and Freemason Albert Operti (1852-1927), depicted Kane and his crew abandoning their icebound ship in his 1855 painting titled, Farewell. Operati, a scenic artist for the Metropolitan Opera House and later exhibit artist for the American Museum of Natural History, often focused on Arctic exploration in his paintings. The print shown here, in the Museum & Library collection and made after the painting in 1889, shows six men from the exploration team with dogs and sleds, preparing to board their escape boats. In the lower right hand corner, Operati included a square and compasses, the letter “G,” with a walrus and iceberg, illustrating his Masonic affiliation. Kane, also a Freemason, was a member of Franklin Lodge no. 134 in Philadelphia. Kane Lodge No. 454 in New York City, chartered in 1859, was named after and dedicated to Kane, who died in Havana, Cuba, in 1857.

According to an 1889 edition of The Freemasons Repository, Operati presented the Farewell painting to Kane Lodge, also in possession of the aforementioned figure-head from the Advance. To see more prints and paintings from the Museum collection depicting scenes from American history visit our new exhibition, "The Art of American History," on view through November 2019.

 


Fraternal Order Orioles

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Fraternal Order Orioles Plate, 1913. Buffalo Pottery, Buffalo, New York. Museum Purchase, 2017.007.3. Photograph by David Bohl.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired a group of ceramics related to a variety of fraternal groups, including the interesting Fraternal Order Orioles. Founders established the Fraternal Order Orioles, a social and charitable organization, in Rochester, New York, in 1910. The Orioles, first named Order of Owls, was modeled after fraternal groups like the Oddfellows and Freemasons. Local Oriole groups still meet today in "subordinate nests," regional groups in “grand nests,” and the national governing group in “supreme nests.”  They continue to fundraise for charitable causes and for provide benefits for members and their families.

Buffalo Pottery, an American ceramics company, made these particular Oriole steins and plate in Buffalo, New York, in 1913. The date, April 16-27, 1913 and the German words “Deutscher Jahrmarkt,” which translates to “German Fair,” are printed on all three pieces accompanied by an image of an oriole or the Buffalo Orioles hall. The name and dates suggest the wares may have been created to commemorate a German cultural fair sponsored by the Orioles in Buffalo in 1913. The Orioles were headquartered in Buffalo in the early 1900s and Buffalo Nest #1 built a hall in downtown Buffalo in 1914. The Buffalo hall is printed on one of the steins pictured below. A Ukrainian American community group purchased the building in 1955.

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Fraternal Order Orioles steins, 1913. Buffalo Pottery, Buffalo, New York. Museum Purchase, 2017.007.6 & 8. Photographs by David Bohl

In 1901, the Larkin Soap Co., a Buffalo soap manufacturer, created Buffalo Pottery to produce premiums for soap products. Premium products included pottery and art wares, handkerchiefs, small lithographs, and furniture. They were included in single or bulk soap purchases made by mail order or at certain retail outlets and meant to entice customers to buy more soap products.The Larkin Soap Co. was one of the country’s largest mail-order companies in the early 1900s. Buffalo pottery created individualized commemorative wares for different organizations and civic groups in the early 1900s. Many of these wares were similar in design with the same deep blue-green edges and gold trim seen on these examples. 

Buffalo pottery changed its name to Buffalo China, Inc. in 1956 and became one of the largest suppliers of commercial dinnerware through the 1960s. Oneida Limited company purchased Buffalo China in the early 1980s. The Buffalo production facility closed down in the mid-2000s. Are you or someone in your family a member of the Orioles? Do you have any items, information, or photographs related to the Orioles?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

References:

Seymour and Violet Altman, The Book of Buffalo Pottery (New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1969)


The Impressive Odd Fellow

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Unidentified I.O.O.F. Member, 1883-1908, Osborn Company, Binghamton, NY, Museum Purchase, 2016.010.

Can you ever have too many badges, ribbons, or medals? Not according to this particularly proud and active Odd Fellow. We recently acquired this fantastic cabinet card featuring a sepia-toned portrait of an unidentified I.O.O.F. member wearing more than twenty badges, medals, and ribbons. The card was printed between 1883 and 1908 by the Osborn Company in Binghamton, New York.

Cabinet cards, introduced in the 1860s, were similar to carte-de-visites (for more on CDVs read this post). They served as   a popular alternative to cased photographs like daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. Cabinet card photos measured approximately four inches by six inches and were mounted onto card stock. The cards usually featured a photographer’s decorative stamp, name, and location. The Osborn Company was a family-run photography business owned by Emerson Osbourne from about 1883 to 1908 in Binghamton.

This particular photo caught our eye because many fraternal portrait cabinet cards feature a member wearing regalia with only one or two medals or ribbons. The ribbons commemorate various Odd Fellows events and field days in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.  There is a ribbon that reads “Calumet 62” and another that reads “Canton Scranton No. 4.” There are records of an active Calumet Lodge No. 62 in Binghamton, New York, from the mid-1860s to the late 1940s. There are also local Pennsylvania newspapers from the late 1880s that reference an I.O.O.F. Canton Scranton No. 4 group.

These findings lead us to believe that this proud unidentified Odd Fellow was most likely a member of these two lodges and perhaps others. Can you help us identify this photograph? Do you have information about  I.O.O.F. lodges in New York or Pennsylvania? Let us know with a comment below or email Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator, ylaxton[@]srmml.org.

References:

The Scranton Republican, Scranton, Pennsylvania, March 13, 1896.

William Summer Lawyer, Binghamton: it's settlement, growth and development, and the factors in its history, 1800-1900, Binghamton, N.Y. : Century Memorial Publishing Co., 1900.


A Violation of Our Principles: Political Discussion within Walls of the Lodge

One of the central rules adopted by many fraternal societies is the prohibition of political discussion within the walls of the lodge. Freemasonry adheres to this prohibition, as does the International Organisation of Good Templars (IOGT), the fraternity highlighted in this letter from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

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Utica Oct 27th 1871

E. S. Hughes Esq.
Dear Bro.

It having come to my knowledge that Bro. Lewis H. Babcock the Democratic candidate for Dist. Attorney has been visiting the several Lodges of our order in the county for the purpose of soliciting the votes of Temperance men. I deem it my duty to caution Lodges against allowing themselves to be drawn into any political controversy as Lodges.

At the same time, I would state the facts as they are in relation to the candidates for district atty for the information of such voters of our order as are unacquainted with them. Lewis H. Babcock, the Democratic nominee, and Capt. D. C. Stoddard, the Republican nominee, are both members of Utica Central Lodge, No. 240, and have been for 3 or 4 years. During that time, Bro. Babcock has repeatedly violated his obligation

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and has been disciplined therefor. It is only since his nomination that he has returned to the Lodge. Bro. Stoddard has maintained his standing from the first and is known as a consistent and persistent Temperance Man. Good Templars should consider these facts and judge accordingly.

This circular is not intended to be read in Lodge but is for the information of members outside the Lodge room.


Fraternally Yours,

C. D. Rose
County Chief Templar

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Letter from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27.

​The IOGT, a temperance society which still exists today, was begun by a “few printer boys” or apprentices in Utica, New York, during the winter of 1850-1851. Research into this letter reveals that the author was most likely Corydon D. Rose of Utica. Rose worked as a printer, and Federal Census records for 1870 reveal that he worked for the Temperance Patriot, the official newspaper of the Grand Lodge of the Order of Good Templars of the State of New York, and may have served as an editor. While Rose cautions his recipient, E. S. Hughes, about political discussion taking place within the walls of the lodge, amusingly, he holds no such reservation about such discussions taking place “outside of the Lodge room” and proceeds to provide “the facts” regarding the candidates’ temperance reputation.

As for who won the district attorney’s race of 1871, Henry Cookingham reports in his History of Oneida County that Rose’s choice, David C. Stoddard, a Temperance man and a Freemason, would go on to carry Oneida county by a majority of 845 votes over Lewis H. Babcock, who was also a Freemason.



Captions

Letter and envelope from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27. Museum Purchase. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, FR 430.002.

References

Ancestry.com (2011). U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995: Boyd’s Business Directory of Utica, Rome, Sherburne, Norwich, and Intermediate Villages, 1871-72. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Ancestry.com (2009). 1870 United States Federal Census. Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Chase, Simeon B. (1876). “Section 74.” In A Digest of the Laws, Decisions, Rules and Usages of the Independent Order of Good Templars with a Brief Treatise on Parliamentary Practice. (pp. 236). Philadelphia: Garrigues Brothers.

Cookinham, Henry J.(1912). History of Oneida County, New York: from 1700 to the Present Time. (Vol. 1) Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=oMspAQAAMAAJ&q

Durant, Samuel (1878). History of Oneida County, New York: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia, PA: Everts and Fariss.
https://archive.org/details/cu31924100210974

Grand Lodge of New York (1875). “Charges of a Free Mason: Charge VI: 2.” In Constitution and Statutes, Rules of Order and Code of Procedure of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York. New York: Thomas Holman.

Heinmiller, Gary L. (2010). “Craft Masonry in Oneida County, New York.” Onondaga and Oswego Masonic District Historical Society. Accessed: 25 February 2016. http://www.omdhs.syracusemasons.com/sites/default/files/history/Craft%20Masonry%20in%20Oneida%20County.pdf

Stevens, Albert C. (1907). Independent Order of Good Templars. In Cyclopædia of Fraternities. (pp. 404 - 406). New York: E. B. Treat and Company. https://archive.org/stream/cyclopdiaoffra00stevrich/cyclopdiaoffra00stevrich_djvu.txt

Wager, Daniel Elbridge (1896). “David Curtis Stoddard.” In Our County and Its People: A Descriptive Work on Oneida County, New York. (pp. 74 – 77). [Boston, MA]: Boston History Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=ss44AQAAMAAJ&dq